Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Enough With The Secrecy, Already. This Trade Thing Is Too Important To Be Kept Under Wraps. Senator Thune, Are You Listening?

An Ironic Symbol Of Our Booming Asian Trade:
China's COSCO Terminal In Long Beach, CA.  
The Irony:  This Was Once A Homeport Of Our Pacific Fleet
(photo from www.coscoamericas.com)
       This "trade thing" is an agreement, still being hammered out, called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and it stands to be a good deal for South Dakota.  If TPP, which includes most of the "Pacific rim" countries (China excluded) comes to pass, it will create a trading zone that accounts for about 40% of the world's trade and make South Dakota's principal exports--grain and livestock--all that much easier to sell to some already pretty good customers, Japan in particular. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) is positive about it, and with good reason.  Japan and the rapidly growing cluster of southeast Asian nations signing on to the deal are great and potentially greater markets for American beef.  Same goes for the National Corn Growers Association (NCG), which is particularly pleased that Japan is included in the mix. Basically, South Dakotans should feel pretty good about TPP's prospects.
      Only problem is that the negotiations are being conducted so secretly that nobody seems to know much about the details of the deal, where the devil resides.  I got the sense from our Senator Thune's op-ed in the Rapid City Journal yesterday that he puts concerns about American exporters being on "an equal playing field" with their counterparts and competitors in the global marketplace at the top of his priorities for 2015.  Who can take exception to that?  My Q for the Senator regarding this is:  How carefully is he following a deal that is being shaped up in such intense secrecy?  There is much to be concerned about in deals of this magnitude, and Congress has been resisting giving President Obama "fast track" trade authority that would give Obama the right to sign off on it with only cursory review by Congress.  
     If Thune is sincere about his prioritizing that "equal playing field" concern he wrote about in RCJ, I would think he'd be among the first to insist on Congressional scrutiny and input on a deal as far-reaching as this one. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is particularly miffed that leading American corporate interests are directly involved in the negotiations that have essentially excluded
C'mon Senator Thune.  Let Us In
On The Trade Deal.
(photo from rapidcityjournal.com)
our elected representatives in Congress.  It's hard to argue with Sanders' point when he says: 
“It is incomprehensible to me that the leaders of major corporate interests who stand to gain enormous financial benefits from this agreement are actively involved in the writing of the TPP while, at the same time, the elected officials of this country, representing the American people, have little or no knowledge as to what is in it. In my view, this is simply unacceptable.”
     I think we South Dakotans should also get a sense of how this deal will affect our agricultural trade with Canada and Mexico, who are part of the proposed trade group. NCBA's and NCG's unqalified endorsements notwithstanding, South Dakota ag interests should have a direct sense of how this deal is shaping up before joining lock-step with their organizational honchos in getting behind it. As a good, card-carrying, free-trade promoting Republican businessman I'm inclined to be supportive of deals like this. As a guy who agrees that skepticism about NAFTA more than 20 years ago has long since been justified, I want to know more about this TPP thing before we give it the go-ahead.  




  1. As you point out John, your consternation about NAFTA, and although you didn't say it, CAFTA and all of the other free trade agreements was well founded. And you make great points that the concerns of the corn growers and the beef producers need to be pursued by our government, but not just as expressed by the leadership of those two groups.

    As far as members of Congress wanting a level playing field for American business, as usual talk is cheap but it takes money to buy whiskey. The single biggest strike against American business as relates to the playing field, has been healthcare and its cost as a part of American business and to American businesses. Every western country against which American businesses compete, have had national health care for years and in some cases decades, while our government has argued this case for the past thirty years at least. And when we finally passed it, it still left the big money players with all that they had before and gave them more, with the passage of "Obamacare."

    I certainly believe in healthcare for all and also believe that Senator Thune was correct in his assessment a year ago, that the cost of healthcare in this country as the percentage of GDP that it has attained to in the past twenty years, and still going higher, is not sustainable.

    Meanwhile, Congress continues to argue about doing anything, rather than eliminating this disadvantage to American business, altogether and getting back to the business of governing.

  2. As Lanny points out healthcare is a big hurdle for American business to be competitive in a global economy. But we have fewer true American companies. They are global companies. Once grain leaves the farm it is a global market controlled by multi-national companies.
    The second big hurdle for American business to be competitive is the environment. Namely the EPA. The EPA is in the sights of this new GOP congress.
    One thing we have enjoyed clean air and clean waters since 1972 with the Clean water and Clean Air acts. The segment of the population that were born after this time period don't remember what Whitewood creek smelled like. They don't remember driving out of Lead, SD past the mine and your nose burn and your eyes water from the pollution. They don't remember the burning rivers back in Ohio.
    While this doesn't have much to do with your article on expanding the trade agreements. It is part of Sen. Thune laying the ground work for leveling the playing field by reigning in EPA and Obomacare.